Here is a condensed version of my workflow for either post processed RAW files, or JPG files right off the CF or SD card. Let me cover a few basics: 1) in regard to RAW files, I don’t mess with color or sharpening in ACR, but do it in Photoshop after opening the RAW file. 2) in regard to JPG’s off a CF or SD card, remember that these files have been processed once already by the camera, so some of these steps might over process the image – so be careful and tweak the steps to suite how you shoot. I assume you have an image open and the Layers Palette showing. A more detailed explanation of the steps can be found on my website: http://www.amwestphoto.com Here we go:
1. Create a Layer (ctrl+J) (now you have 2 layers)
2. Apply 30% Smart Sharpen (under Filters >> Sharpen)
3. Apply Levels Changes (ctrl+L) for best effect.
4. Apply 14% Color Boost (under Image >> Adjustments >>Channel Mixer
5. Create a Layer (ctrl+J) (now you have 3 layers)
6. Adjust Vibrance (under Image >> Adjustments >> Vibrance) for best effect.
7. Adjust Brightness/Contrast (under Image >>Adjustments>>Brightness/Contrast) for best effect.
8. Collapse Layer 3 to layer 2 (ctrl+E) (back to 2 layers) if you like the changes.
9. Create a Layer (ctrl+J) (you now have 3 layers)
10. Repair Image for Dustspots, etc with Spot Healing Brush from the Tool box
11. Use Quick Selection Tool to select continuous (like the sky) toned areas that are not part of the subject.
12. Apply Noise Reduction to these areas as needed (Filter >>Noise>>Reduce Noise)
13. Invert your selection so the subject is selected (Select >> Inverse)
14. Reduce noise in subject and apply final sharpening – 70% Smart Sharpen
15. Deselect selected areas (marching ants) (ctrl+D)
16. Collapse Layer 3 down to layer 2 (ctrl+E) if you like changes
17. Check your changes between Layer 2 and Background layer by flashing the “eye” on and off in the Layers Palette for Layer 2 (or Background layer copy, depending upon how you created the new layer)
18. If you like the changes, flatten to one layer (ctrl+E) and Save As …. with a new name or file name extention, like adding -R (for Retouched) to the original name. Save at size 12 for best JPG quality.
– JPG images cannot have layers to save, and must be 8 bits in size (Image>>Mode>>8 bits).
– I use Imagenomic Noiseware Professional ($69) 64-bit version for my noise reduction. Once this program is installed it appears at the bottom of the Filters menu.
– Color boost is best done with the Channel Mixer and not with Hue/Saturation as to not muddy up the primary RGB colors (by boosting Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow). An explanation of how to do it is in my old Sept 2006 newsletter, available in the newsletter archives, and called Digital Velvia.
– Always apply less noise reduction to the subject. Also, we don’t want to apply major sharpening to areas of continuous tone because it will pixelate those areas, such as the sky.